LINCOLN, Neb. – Danny Langsdorf met with the media on Wednesday evening to preview Nebraska’s game against Illinois, evaluate about how the team has handled the injuries along the offensive line and discuss wide receivers coach Keith Williams’ return to the sideline.
Langsdorf said the Huskers haven’t spent any time looking back at last year’s 14-13 loss in Champaign since Illinois has a whole new coaching staff led by long-time NFL coach Lovie Smith. Langdorf said the front four is the strength of this year’s defense for the Illini.
“[I see] an improved defensive line, and they were good last year,” Langsdorf said. “Both their D-ends, 91 and 6, are speed rush guys that give you a lot of problems. They’re big and strong inside at D-tackle. They’ve got a linebacker who was all Pac-12 whose dad’s the D-coordinator; he’s a really good player. They play a lot of man coverage and they’ll change it up with some cover 2, so they give you different looks that way. They do a nice job of disguising the secondary. Our biggest challenge will be blocking the defensive line.”
The best way to neutralize pass-rushers is to attack them on the ground an stay ahead of the chains, and Langsdorf said that is the plan for Saturday.
“Sometimes those speed rushers are really good on you on third-and-long and that is where we really have to get out of that situation and be able to earn some yards on first and second down and stay out of third and long and limit those speed rushers’ ability to rush the passer,” Langsdorf said. “I think we have to do a good job at being able to sustain the blocks and handle them in the run game.”
>> It has only been four games, but Nebraska’s depth on the offensive line has already been seriously tested. Nebraska lost starting left guard Jerald Foster before the season started and now right guard Tanner Farmer went down against Northwestern and will nt play against Illinois.
“They have been very good about the next man up mentality. They have done a nice job of preparing,” Langsdorf said. “It is rare that you are going to go through a season and not have some bumps and bruises, so you have got to have guys ready to play. I think Corey [Whitaker] and Sam [Hahn] have filled in nicely for Tanner and DJ [Foster]. They’ve done a nice job of continuing to work and being ready to play, so I think that’s shone. As they have gotten into the game, we have not really missed a beat.”
Whitaker will start in Farmer’s place, meaning both of Nebraska’s top offensive line reserves are now in the starting lineup. According to offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh, Cole Conrad will be the next man up – at tackle, guard or center.
>> Williams will be back on the sideline for the first time this season after serving his four-game suspension.
“I’m happy to be back,” Williams said. “It was obviously really tough not being around and that whole process was really tough, so I’m ecstatic to be back.”
Williams said he watched the home games alone in his office and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
“Not good,” Williams said. “What you would think – it was a stressful situation, but I brought it on myself. You move forward and make it right.”
Graduate assistant Hardie Buck has filled in for Williams for the first four games, and Williams was exuberant in his praise for the job Buck did. The receivers have echoed that praise for Buck but are looking forward to having their coach back out there on the field.
“He’s always got the most energy out of anybody,” senior Brandon Reilly said. “Coach Buck did great those four games; he got an undefeated record as a head receivers coach. I don’t think that’s going to get beat for a while. But having Dub back on the sidelines is going to be huge. I think our wideout play is going to take that next step this game.”
Langsdorf talked about what getting Williams back on the sideline means for the Huskers.
“I think the energy and really a good sounding board for technique and reminders,” Langsdorf said. “Just a comfort of having a guy there to help you out throughout the game. I think that will be good for the players. I think Hardie did a wonderful job filling in and we’ll still have him, so I think we’re just going to have another set of eyes that will help us and a guy that brings a lot of energy.”
Williams also shared the thing that stands out to him the most after going through the process that followed his arrest during fall camp.
“Just the support and understanding from everyone involved,” Williams said. “From the administration on down to the fans. The players, Coach Riley, Shawn [Eichorst], the president, the chancellor, everybody involved has just been really supportive and great and that’s been real humbling. On a daily basis I feel that way.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.